Not everyone is able to complete their Grade 12 or Matric Certificate and many learners have found that the traditional schooling system is not a good fit. Luckily in today’s education environment, not having a Matric Certificate doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unable to study further. There are many credible alternatives to an academic Matric, and many institutions offer registered qualifications which are either equivalent to a Grade 12 or Matric Certificate or allow you to study further without one.





Here are six bona fide routes to a Grade 12 or Matric Certificate equivalent in South Africa:

1. Get a National Senior Certificate (NSC)
This is the traditional route in South Africa offered by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB). Both Public and Private schools are accredited by Umalusi Quality Council.

Learners qualify with a standard NSC or one with exemption for further study after Matric. These are:

The National Senior Certificate with Higher Certificate admission A NSC with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of your chosen Higher Education Institution.
The National Senior Certificate with Diploma admission A NSC with Moderate Achievement (40-49%) in four recognised and accredited subjects and a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of your chosen Higher Education Institution.
The National Senior Certificate with Bachelor’s Degree admission A NSC with Adequate Achievement (50-59%) in four recognised and accredited subjects.
2. Get a qualification from Cambridge International (Now known as CAIE – Cambridge Assessment International Education)
Part of the University of Cambridge in the UK, the CAIE qualifications are recognised by many of the world’s best universities. CAIE offers learners another way of getting a Grade 12 or an equivalent certificate. Their International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is the most popular international certification in the world for learners between the ages of 14 and 16. You will be required to complete an IGCSE and AS Level over a period of two years, with adherence to the subject group requirements.

CAIE is recognised by most South African universities such as:

University of Pretoria
Stellenbosch University
Remember, each university (AND each faculty) will have its own set of admission requirements for school-leaving certificates, so it’s a good idea to check if your chosen university will recognise the international qualification.

Cambridge International is a popular home schooling option and many private schools and colleges in South Africa now offer this as an alternative to NSC.

3. Write the General Education Development (GED) Test
The GED Test is an American qualification that was designed for anyone who did not or could not matriculate from high school, but still, would like a certificate that’s equivalent to a Grade 12. Study is done online or through private training support centres in South Africa. Tests are online and are administered at registered Pearson VUE Testing Centres throughout South Africa.

The GED Test is a great option for home-schooled learners, offering an online Grade 12 certificate that is recognised by some universities in South Africa. You will need to complete four required subjects: Science, Mathematical Reasoning, Social Studies, and Reasoning Through Language Arts.

If you wish to study further into higher education, you’ll need to check with your university of choice what their admission requirements are for international Grade 12 equivalents.

4. Get a qualification that’s registered on the National Qualification Framework (NQF)
The NQF is a directory of qualification levels that are available to all learners in South Africa. There are ten levels on the framework – each indicating the difficulty of the qualification. Quite a number of private, technical and vocational colleges in South Africa offer qualifications that start at NQF Level 3 and 4. An NQF 4 is equivalent to Grade 12 or Matric.

While these qualifications have entry requirements, they are very accessible to most students. The table below shows three examples of these types of qualifications:

Qualification Entry Requirement Exit Level
National Certificate: Bookkeeping (ICB) Grade 10 NQF L3
National Certificate: Information Technology: End User Computing (MICT SETA) Grade 10 NQF L3
Further Education Certificate: Project Management (Services SETA) Grade 11 NQF L4
5. Consider a NCV (National Certificate Vocational)
This is run by colleges and it combines theory and practical experience to prepare you for work in a specific industry or occupation but it ends at NQF L4. These qualifications are offered at most TVET colleges (public and private), however it is not as easy to study further at a university after completion. Visit for more information.

6. National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED)/Report 191
NATED / Report 191 programmes are delivered by providers (public or private) under the careful watch of the Department of Higher Education and Training, who carry out the examination and moderation of these programmes. NATED Engineering studies range from N1 – N6 and consist of 18 months’ theoretical studies at colleges and 18 months’ relevant practical application in work places leading to a National N Diploma. The entry requirements for N1 is a Grade 9. After successfully completing N1 – N3, you will have a qualification that is equivalent to a Matric certificate.

Article written by: Ang Gibbons | ACADEMIC HEAD: ELMI College